It’s finally here. The most wonderful time of the year, as we kick off the 100th season of NFL football.
Everyone is feeling good about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New coach Bruce Arians is being counted to have the same success in taking Jameis Winston’s game to the next level as he did with Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck.
Todd Bowles the new defensive coordinator has the Bucs blitzing and being more aggressive in the new 3-4 defensive scheme. Bowles has also changed the Bucs defensive backs approach to how they cover receivers going with a press man to man coverage instead of the read and react defense.
The Bucs are also keeping their fingers crossed that they have finally solved the kicking woes as they selected kicker Matt Gay from Utah in the fifth round. Gay looked very good in the pre-season making field goals from 55 and 53 yards and also kicked two game winners beating out Cairo Santos for the job.
Linebacker Devin White was drafted with the fifth overall pick to fill the shoes of Kwon Alexander who signed with San Francisco in free agency. White will be the guy that calls the defensive plays in the huddle, and that is a big responsibility for a 21 year old rookie.
The San Francisco 49ers come to town looking to improve on last seasons 4-12 record and third place in the NFC West.
The Buccaneers beat the 49ers 27-9 in Tampa last year following the bye week for the 49ers.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is finally healthy and will be one of the keys to a successful season for the 49ers. Since 2017 Garoppolo has stared just nine games for the 49ers and is looking to stay healthy this season and prove to everyone that he is worth every penny of that five year $137 million contract.
Garoppolo does have some weapons to work with in tight end George Kittle who has quickly become one of the top tight ends in the game.
Kittle led the 49ers in receiving a year ago with 88 catches for five touchdowns and averaged over 14 yards a catch.
Write receiver Marquise Goodwin highlights the wide receiver group. The seven year veteran played in only 11 games last season and is looking to rebound off a disappointing season with only 23 catches.
Dante Pettis is the receiver that will start opposite Goodwin. Pettis has been hampered by a groin injury the latter half of training camp but was a full participant at practice on Thursday.
Matt Breida ran for over 800 yards last season and the 49ers will look to establish he run early against a Buccaneer defense that has struggled stopping the run.
Defensively is where the 49ers really improved from last season acquiring pass rush specialist Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2020 draft pick.
Ford will join a defensive line that includes Sheldon Day, DeForest Buckner, and Arik Armstead.
Nick Bosa the first round pick of the 49ers this spring has been hampered by injuries all pre-season but will make his NFL debut Sunday against the Buccaneers.
General manager John lynch signed former Buccaneer linebacker Kwon Alexander to a four year contract and he will be ready to go against his former teammates on Sunday. “Just go out there and get a win. That’s all. Just do my job. Long as we get the win, I’ll be all right. I’m not worried about anything else. It’s not all about me. It’s about the team.”
One of the better matchups of this game will be Buccaneer wide receiver Mike Evans against 49er cornerback Richard Sherman.
Sherman likes to talk a lot but is coming off an injury riddled 2018 season and is looking to have a bounce back season Sherman is 100% going into the season and Mike Evans and the rest of the Bucs receivers will provide a good test for Sherman.
This should be the game that Jameis Winston becames the all time leading passer in Buccaneer history as he needs just 112 yards to pass Vinny Testaverde to become the all time Bucs passing leader.
Another milestone that no one is talking about is the fact that Mike Evans has the chance to join Randy Moss this season as the only two receivers in NFL history to begin their career with six consecutive seasons with 1,000 receiving yards.
And the talking heads at ESPN and the NFL network continue to disrespect Mike Evans and rank him in the second tier (5-10) of the best receivers in the NFL. The disrespect that is showed to this man after what he has accomplished in his five seasons in the NFL is a disgrace.
Four things to watch in this game.
1. Mike Evans vs. Richard Sherman. Great match-up.
2. How will the Bucs new and improved defense look now that the games count?
3. Can Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones get the Bucs ground game going?
4. The offensive line vs. the 49ers front seven.
The Bucs are favored by 1.5 against the 49ers. This will be a good test for the Bucs defense and more importantly the offensive line. The offensive line allowed 15 sacks in the pre-season the most of any team and this 49er front seven will be a good measuring stick.
When the final gun sounds at Raymond James on Sunday night, the Bucs will winners as they will edge the 49ers 27-24.